In a world becoming more focused on the burning topic of women’s rights, it is unsurprising that there have been many outcries from women across the globe who aim to break free from the chains of the patriarchy. From Kenya to Pakistan, women are standing up and speaking their minds on issues that had been previously overlooked.
In Kenya, Tatu Kamau, a female doctor is pleading with the courts to make female genital mutilation legal. Female genital mutilation, also known as FGM, has been going on in Kenya for a multitude of decades, the belief amongst tribes being that it shall decrease a woman’s desires for sex. It is estimated by the UN that approximately 21% of all females between the ages of 15-49 have been circumcised following this tradition. Unsurprisingly this tradition is followed by a multitude of serious issues such as child marriage and betrothal as well as the refusal of these girls to attend school. After the mutilation of women it is not unusual that girls as young as eight years old have been betrothed to men within that society who are significantly older than them. The performance of the FGM tradition was criminalised by the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2011.
The basis of Kamau’s plea is that by making practice of FGM illegal in Kenya the government is taking away the right for women to make their own choice. It is claimed that by attempting to eradicate this form of female circumcision the personal will of womenabove the age of eighteen is being infringed upon. According to Kamau this tradition does not aim to harm and destroy the women who are subjected to it by their family members, it is there to celebrate women and to increase their respect amongst society members. She argues that FGM should be carried out by trained medical practitioners and should be regulated by the government rather than banned as a whole.
Kamau’s opinions on the matter have been seen as outrageous by many within the country as well as by those in the international community. Considering that FGM has been shown to cause severe damage to the individuals who have been subjected to it both physically and emotionally. There have also been many who have even died from the act. FGM is a cultural practice that aims to get women married at a young age and deprives them to a proper education, an example of this is the 5% literacy rate in the Samburu tribe of Kenya. The petition by Tatu Kamau to the courts has been adjourned until December 2019.
In Pakistan the Arts Council decided to hold a feminist discussion panel in Karachi on Friday the 22nd of November. This may seem at face value to be a step towards a broader discussion on feminist issues in Pakistan, however, upon the release of the panel’s guests by the Council it was discovered that almost all the participants were male. In the original effort to include more women in the project the Council placed Uzma al-Karim, the only female on the list, as the discussion host for the event. The topic was widely discussed on Twitter this week by women all over Pakistan.
Many individuals saw this as an ineffective way to approach the topic of gender inequality as the female perspective may be missed out. The organisers of the event claimed that the reason for the male panel was to show feminism from another perspective, needless to say that it is possible for men to be feminists too. It was stated that the panel consisted of influential male figures in Pakistan who were to deliver their thoughts on feminism as big decision makers in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately for the Council this was not enough to convince the public of their good intentions and the men participating in the panel were called out for using feminism for their own financial gain rather than to spread awareness.
It appears that the Arts Council felt the heat after the tweets began. So much so that the heading for the discussion panel was changed from ‘Feminism: The Other Perspective’ to the new title ‘Understanding Feminism’. The Council also decided to add two more women to the panel, Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, who is a feminist herself, and Quatrina Hosain a Pakistani journalist.
In this day and age, it is essential that women and men both raise their voices and opinions about topics that affect the world as a whole. The equal treatment of women in the society we live in is a goal that we should strive to achieve, be it in education, marriage, media or medicine.